Miss Bertha and Miss Janie....

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Special Hen
Feb 10, 2014
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Some of y'all may remember this story I wrote a year or so ago. I am sharing again as my humble offering to the Spirit of Christmas here at OSA that I have grown to know and love.

Merry Christmas and May God Bless each of you.

Christmas time with the spinster sisters:

In the local cemetery of my Town of Owasso there are many stone sentinels standing their ever vigilant post over their dearly departed, each with a story worth telling to whoever might listen. This, my story, is a story of two spinster sisters who I miss yet, especially this time of year.

The two simple markers read:

Janie McGill March 23, 1891 – October 20, 1977

Bertha McGill March 11, 1901 – July 1, 1985

Two easily overlooked simple markers, standing side by side as only befitting the sisters, each marker stating the simple facts of the occupants below separated only by a dash. The story of each sister is found within the dash engraved upon their sentinel.

Bertha and Janie were longtime residents of our small town. They never married, lived together in a very modest home, made their meager living by taking in ironings, and were a familiar sight in town as they walked everywhere they went in rain or shine having neither vehicle nor ever learning how to operate one.

I mentioned a very modest home, actually the home was not much more than a two room shack located on the outskirts of town less than forty feet from the Santa Fe railroad tracks. Each time a freight or passenger train passed by, the fragile home structure shook and shivered as if caught out in the cold without a coat. It was Bertha and Janie that transformed the shack into a home merely by their presence.

I was ten years old when I first met the two sisters. They were members of the Nazarene Church located two blocks from their home, easily accessible to them from their home each Sunday and Wednesday. It was there I had my first encounter.

My Dad made a point of visiting all the local church houses, thereby showing no partiality to any single denomination or congregation. It was through this gesture he would often be asked to fill in for the preacher on occasion or hold revivals when asked to.

We were at the Nazarene Church on one such Sunday morning visit, sitting towards the back of the church on a pew that might have felt softer if it had been carved from stone. With a congregation of only twenty or so members, the small building was virtually filled to its seating capacity. Our family was sitting midway in the group. In looking around, it was rather easy to see all in attendance, especially Bertha and Janie. The older sister, Janie, probably would have stood four feet four or so if she had been able to completely stand up. A hard life and osteoporosis had taken their toll on the ancient woman’s body leaving it permanently hunched over. Bertha on the other hand, stood at least six feet one with a wide stance to complement the extra height. Her tightly wound hair bun only added to her stature. If you have ever seen a photo of Corrie Ten Boom, Bertha and she could have been identical twins. Yes, it was easy to spot the pair in a crowd. I would like to add that Bertha and Janie were sitting in the pew at the back of the small room. I was to find out the reason as to why the traditional seating arrangements were as they were.

I do not remember the sermon that morning or being that immersed into it at the time. The preacher must have been speaking about glorious things for the one thing I distinctly remember hearing began with a low pew shaking rumble.



While you may get the idea, I nearly peed my jeans squirming on that pew looking for a place to hide. Miss Bertha was prone to being touched by the Holy Spirit from time to time and became too happy to hold it all in. Lord have mercy when she started praising her very good friend and even more so as she jumped up on her feet. That Sunday morning episode had scared the heebie-jeebies out of me I will admit. Years later, when I heard about the Mississippi squirrel from Ray Stevens, I immediately thought of Bertha.

Her sister on the other hand, contained her composure as if being used to the occasional outpouring of Miss Bertha’s emotion of praise. It also helped in the fact Janie was extremely hard of hearing, more than likely a blessing rather than a curse on such occasions. I could never imagine Miss Janie running anyway.

We came to visit the sisters on a regular basis at their home by the tracks. It was through those visits I came to know more about God and His goodness. Miss Janie was the epitome of a meek and mild disciple, humble and thankful in all circumstances. Miss Bertha was a genuine prayer warrior with an unshakable faith and outlook, as was my Momma. Whenever Bertha and my Momma decided to have a prayer time together you had best look out …. because mountains were about to be cast into the sea. The scriptures should have read where Bertha and my Momma were gathered together God was in the midst.

I have many fond memories of the spinster sisters. One is how much they enjoyed the Christmas season, and how they shared what they had with those less fortunate than themselves. They needed little in worldly things for that was not where their treasure was. Yes, they were extremely rich…richer than any wealthy person could ever hope to be.

Each Christmas Eve, the little Nazarene Church would open its doors to all residents of the nearby few block area. That part of town housed those less fortunate than others in Owasso. All were welcomed, and it was one time of year when it was standing room only within the walls of the church building. The members of the church would have a short program, children permitting, and then Miss Bertha would take the podium.

Bertha gathered the children down front with her and told them the Christmas Story. No, not the Western version for she knew there was no wooden box or wise men at the “stable” when the baby was born, but the real honest to goodness genuine story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Bertha would know….for He was her best friend after all. She explained in simple terms why Jesus was born and who He really was.

I never remember seeing a dry eye within the building during story time with Miss Bertha.

After the story, Bertha and Janie would pass out brown paper sacks to the kids and their parents. Each sack contained a few pieces of candy, apples, oranges, and other rare treats. Each gift sack was lovingly provided by the sisters, purchased with a portion of their meager wages from ironing other people’s clothing. In doing so, the eyes would light up and the smiles came out from their place of hiding.

God provided the very first gift, Bertha and Janie were just keeping the practice alive and well. It was those simple object lessons of life that brought the true spirit of the season home to me. I never told them that, I wish now I had.

Merry Christmas, girls.I miss you, but I will yet see you again.


Supporting Member
Special Hen Supporter
Apr 14, 2010
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Oklahoma City
Thank you, good story about a couple of real people, living their lives without a lot of outrage. We need more people like these two ladies. (Well maybe not exactly like them)


Supporting Member
Special Hen Supporter
Oct 27, 2012
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Reminds me of when I was a or 8 year old and my mother took me to a church and she got excited and screamed-scared me to death. I mean SCREAMED!

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